Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story

 
 
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A lot of writing coaches talk about story structure and plots and inciting incidents, which is all well and good but Carrie is burnt-out this week. 


Carrie: I have worked too hard and my brain is broken. 

So, instead we are going to tell you what NOT to do. We are going to be the story police and harsh out the rules. 

Carrie: I don’t like rules or broken brains, but let’s do this. 

What Not To Do According To Conventional Wisdom Right Now

Do not start with dialogue.

This used to be super popular, but MySpace also used to be super popular. Things go out of style and it is not super popular anymore. 

Here’s an example: 

             “I like elephants.”

                        “Awesome. Me too.”

                        “No way?”

                        “Actually, I am lying.” 

EXAMPLE OF AWESOME

You’ve no clue who is talking, where they are or why they do or don’t like elephants and you probably don’t care. We want readers to care from the very beginning of the story.

An alarm clock buzzing. 

Who even has an alarm clock anymore, actually? But no alarm clocks or cell phone alarms or whatever. Waking up is dull. 

            My alarm buzzed and I groaned. 

                        “Another day, another dollar,” I said to my cat, Muffin. 

                        Muffin hit me in the nose with her paw. She’s tired of my clichés. 

Another Example of Awesome

The whole IT WAS ALL A DREAM start.

Unless this is a paranormal or fantasy where the dream is a key part of the power or the threat? Then it’s okay even if people say ‘never ever.’

Cough. You don’t want to be super invested in a story and then find out that it was all crap and not real even to the character. 

Amazing thing happens. More amazing things happen. More amazing things happen for five pages. Oops. It’s all a dream. 

Example of dreamy

Being dorky without meaning to. 

This is when you accidentally make a super silly mistake or state something obvious in the very beginning of your story. Gasp! I know! You would never do that, right?

Spoiler alert: We all do this.

She knew she had to wear a mask in a pubic place.

Try to avoid the typos.

“I love to love you,” I think to myself.

This is an example. We all think to ourselves. Cut the ‘to myself.’

All narrative all the time. 

There is no dialogue anywhere in the first ten pages of this story and instead everything is just a solid block of text in which I, the author, tells you exciting things – well at least they are exciting to me – about the story, but honestly it’s just a lot of navel gazing. Did you know that people get lint in their navels? Did you know that a lot of that lint is actually random fibers from your clothes, if you wear clothes, and dead skin, and then it gets stuck there and mixes all up together. I wonder if you care. I wonder if you care that I care. And so on.

Agh. Did you even read this example? It ruined our SEO readability score.

Writing Tip of the Pod

Don’t start off on the wrong writer foot. 

Dog Tip for Life

It’s okay to start over.

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Join the 222,000 people who have downloaded episodes and marveled at our raw weirdness. You can subscribe pretty much anywhere.

This week’s episode.

Continue reading “Broken Brains and Where Shouldn’t You Start Your Story”
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What I See When I Write My Stories

So, a lot of times writers have vision boards for their stories. We fill these with images that represent the theme or the thought or the character. I do this a lot by painting, but sometimes I make real boards somewhere (like Pinterest) too.

Like this would be one for my adult mystery, THE PLACES WE HIDE.

This works really well for the image system of your story and image systems are super cool. Let me know if you want me to blog about them.

And this is the one for one of the stories I’m working on right now. It’s basically a campground for the undead and other strange creatures. The working title is brilliantly called, CREEPY CAMPGROUND STORY. Yes! Yes! I know! Genius title.

And this one would be for the YA story I’m revising, which is a bit of a time travel story, but still awesome and not confusing.

And this one would be for IN THE WOODS, which I cowrote with Steve Wedel and came out this summer.

So, yeah. That’s a peek into the weird image part of my story writing process.

For more about a couple of the stories, check out behind the jump.

But before you go, let me explain. When I write my stories, I hear them inside my head first and then I see the images. Not all writers are like this. When I try to get to the heart and soul of my story and its characters, it is the images that pull me there. Not the words. So in my first draft, I hear the story, but when I revise, I feel the images.

Continue reading “What I See When I Write My Stories”

The First Time I Won An Award As A Grown Up (in age not mentality)

Actually, the title of this blog is wrong. This is about the first time I won a writing award that wasn’t for newspapers.

I won a lot of awards for newspapers.

This award was the Maine Literary Award for creative nonfiction and it was a big enough deal that I had to think about what to wear.

Here’s my excerpt about it. I wasn’t – cough – terribly mature so not much has changed.

I won an award!

Let me first say, that I am stunned by the inability of Maine writers to guzzle down free booze. There was all this wine at the award banquet and NOBODY drank it. Everyone kept sipping Poland Spring water, which is nice because it’s all healthy and everything, but really….

I am not much of a boozer or a winer but I did have a glass. A lady checked it off on a piece of paper. She was keeping a tally. I felt naughty.

The award ceremony for the Maine Literary Awards was nice and I stressed about what to wear for absolutely no reason. There were a few LET US WEAR ALL BLACK AND BE ARTY people there. There were a few LET US WEAR CONTRASTING PRIMARY COLORS AND BE ARTY people there. There were no ball gowns nor nudists nor pinstriped suits, so we Maine writers seemed to lack any real eccentric dressers or at least we did at this awards ceremony. 

As an aside, all those grown-up writers are not so good at hiding the whole jealousy bit, and they don’t hug (or obviously openly drink) as much as children’s writers, which is just a darn shame.

Are children’s writers lushes? Possibly.

Are they fantastic huggers? Most definitely.

I wore a long skirt that wasn’t too flowy or too librarian looking. No offense to librarians. And a black lacy top. I would’ve liked to have down the leather pants thing, but I don’t own any. I would have liked to dress like Ed Briant because he is the ultimate cool boy, but I’m an uncool girl and I had no extra-wide brown and orange striped tie.

There was no pantyhose on my legs either. I just couldn’t do it. Blech.  I would have felt like my mother.

They read excerpts from the pieces, which was embarrassing, but overall it was pretty good. I guess I have to process it a little more.

And it turns out lots of people entered my category (nonfiction), which was a huge surprise but cool. I met the judge who was incredibly nice and upset that I’m not a big nonfiction person, which was also a huge surprise but cool.

I had to tell him I wrote children’s fiction. I think he wanted to take the award away but I clutched it my lacy top and hissed, “Mine. My precious. Mine.”

THE NEXT DAY

And this is what happened the day after that award. . . .

Something funky is going on. That’s for sure. Why? Because I just won a fellowship that goes to “promising Maine writers.”

What am I promising? I don’t know. I promise that my promise is not naughty, is not reality-show worthy, nor Congressionally scandalous in nature.

But this fellowship is cool, because I get $700. 


My income is slowly inching up to poverty level from its abysmal low of nothing. Yee-hawwww.

The dog and I are very excited and have danced around the kitchen, much to the displeasure of the cat.

How About You?

Do you remember the first time an outside source gave you kudos for your work? Did it feel good? Did you feel validated? Stunned? Were you like, “Um. Duh. I am awesome?”

I hope you win all the awards and randomly get $700. I am rooting for you.


My Book Is Out

You can order it here.  (ebook or paperback) 

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones

And if you click through to this link, you can read the first chapter! 

And click here to learn about the book’s inspiration and what I learned about myself when I was writing it. 


RECENT EPISODES OF OUR AWESOME DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE AND BONUS INTERVIEWS

This week’s episode link. 

Last week’s episode link 

A bonus interview with Dr. J.L. Delozier, Pennsylvania doctor and writer. 

bonus interview with poet and coach Fiona Mackintosh Cameron. 

Link to Sam’s interview. Sam is my friend and is awesome.

That’s right! Carrie’s (me) doing bonus interviews every Thursday. And they are so much fun.


THE WRITING COURSE OF AWESOME

It’s our very own writing course! 

Basically, it’s set up a bit like a distance MFA program, only it costs a lot less and also has a big element of writer support built in and personalized feedback from me! This program costs $125 a month and runs for four-month sessions!

To find out more, check out this link. It’s only $125 a month, so it’s a super good deal. Come write with us! 

Be Brave Friday

Over on Facebook, I do a think called BE BRAVE FRIDAY because I’m trying to be a human being who:

  1. Evolves
  2. Does things that I’m afraid to do (in little and big ways)

One of those things was podcasting and now we have over 202,000 downloads of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE. I was afraid to do that because I have sloshy-s’s and have been tormented and bullied about my voice for a long, long time.

Another thing that I’m afraid to do is share my art. That’s for a bunch of complicated reasons, but it just makes me feel really vulnerable. So, now I’m sharing it.

Here’s today’s post.

It’s Be Brave Friday


Today, I watched many of my friends be brave and say that they’ve or their family has had Covid-19. They shouldn’t have to be brave to say that.
Society needs to love instead of ostracize. We need to work together to build the communities we want to be a part to of. That building should be about love and access not shame and fear.


Today, I also chanted under my breath while I was working, “I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good.”


And I’m thinking this probably means that I’m not so good? But I am still lucky and blessed to be alive, to have shelter and food, to have people that I get to love. I hope you get those things to. I hope you hold them close to you – those blessings.


Here’s this week’s painting. I hope you are being brave and true. I hope you can chant to yourself the stories you want to hear and live the stories you want to inhabit. Love to all of you. <3


Dogs are Smarter Than People

WHERE TO FIND OUR PODCAST, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

Direct Link to Fiona’s Interview! on DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE. She’s a poet, coach, and awesome human.

Last week’s interview with J.L. Delozier, a Pennsylvania doctor and writer who is on the CoVid-19 frontlines and her debut novel was about a virus killing half the planet.

This week’s regular episode – The Two Second Relationship Rule

Continue reading “Be Brave Friday”

The Inspiration Behind My Book & What I Learned About Myself Publishing It

I learned a lot about who I was when I wrote this book. I’m not talking about who people think I am, but the actual me.

That’s because I did this book all by myself. I never do things all by myself especially not books. I write them. I have a team at publishing houses who tweak and market and create covers.

Not this time. This time I didn’t even show the story to anyone else. Not my agent. Not an editor. It was all me on my own.

And I learned that this is scary because there is nobody else to take responsibility if things go wrong.

And I learned I liked that.

What Inspired Me To Write It?

I wanted to step outside my own walls and do something that felt scary and vulnerable. This book felt scary and vulnerable. Why? Well, here is why.

Bad Guys Built on Real People

You know how sometimes people seem to be super nice and friendly and lovely. But then you see the mask drop? All of a sudden something shifts in their eyes and you think, “Holy crud muffins. This person could be a serial killer!”

There is a person in my town like that.

Actually, there are a couple of people in my town like that. When their mask drops and you see their true self, it makes you gasp.

The bad guys in this story are some of those people significantly tweaked and mashed-up together to create characters that are real, vibrant, and creepy.

Wanting to Mix Genres

When I wrote THE PLACES WE HIDE, I wanted to have some of the standard conventions of romance and thrillers, but give it that first-person-raw feel.

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones

Wanting to Write Good Women Based On Real People

I also based a lot of the women in my story on women like me and my friends – quirky, struggling, real, persistent.

I wanted Rosie and her friends to feel like the moms you actually meet in coastal Maine.

Romance NEEDS

I like love. I like it when people find each other. What can I say?

I wanted to write a story like that.

High Stakes

I can’t help myself. If I’m not writing literary fiction, I tend to write about alien invasions and pixie apocalypses. I wanted to challenge myself to write a realistic story with truly high stakes.

What I Learned

I love writing kids books, but this was so much fun. And it was also really fun to step outside of traditional publishing, which I also love, and do it all myself. It helps me understand what my clients and author-friends who choose self-publishing go through. There’s so much responsibility and control that happens. It’s really a great adventure.

I learned that self-publishing is hard, but freeing. You don’t have to listen to other people helping you make your story better. You don’t have the safety net of the publisher. It’s just you out there – raw and vulnerable.

I learned that self-publishing is addictive. My aunt Athalie died this November. She was really glamorous and lived in California (We were in N.H.) and she was married to a celebrity dentist and then an Oscar-winning art director. She was an artist and believed in reincarnation. All of this was a very big deal to three-year-old Carrie.

She stared at me once as I was doing laps around our living room buck naked and announced loudly, “Carrie is an exhibitionist. Look at all that energy just flow right out of her. Wow.”

Nobody in my family has ever thought I was an exhibitionist. I was (and am) the person who sits on floors instead of chairs so that I can watch everyone else. I hide behind the camera and take pictures of others. I am a writer, for Pete’s sake.

Here’s the thing: Athalie was right.

Self-publishing pushes me towards that exhibitionist side. By marketing everything myself, by having the book be just my voice and my story, I show more of who I am to the world. And I’m okay with that. It’s scary, but all the good things are.

Truth Bomb

It’s really scary sometimes to put your work out there, or to just be who you are – the real you – unpolished sometimes, dorky, self-righteous, befuddled, passionate, fangirly, angry, sad, anxious you.

But it’s so much easier than living a life of pretending and of lies.

Authenticity is brave and vulnerable, yes, but it’s also pretty damn empowering to just exhibit who the heck you truly are to the world and let the world deal with it.

I hope you’ll be an exhibitionist with me. Exhibit who you are. Be who you are.


THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 

DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE PODCAST

WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them.

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

How to Become Confident (if you want to)

I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s a form of lying to me. I’d rather be honest and raw than polished and fake. I prefer honey over white sugar.

Because I have social anxiety and I’m super open about my fears and vulnerabilities, a lot people think I’m not confident and tell me to not sell-myself-short of be self-deprecating. I know that they’re only trying to be kind, but their mindset about authenticity and confidence is not the same as mine, which seems to be something I have to explain a lot. 

I actually once had an editor who told me, “Carrie, you are the weirdest mix of incredibly confident and secure and insecure that I’ve ever met.” 

I took that as a compliment. 

And other people have told me, “You are amazing. Don’t present as insecure! Know your power! You are hurting yourself by showing the world who you are.” 

Which is kind of them because I know they’re trying to be helpful, but the thing is that I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not. That’s a form of lying to me. I’d rather be honest and raw than polished and fake. I prefer honey over white sugar.

Being Open About Insecurities is Cool

I’m lucky. I’m secure enough to be open about being insecure. Weird, right? It shouldn’t be. I know I’m flawed – so flawed – but I’m okay with it because people are supposed to be flawed. We’re supposed to grow and mess up and make mistakes and ask forgiveness and forgive. We’re supposed to put the silverware in the dishwasher the wrong way and accidentally put our shirts on backwards. 

So I embrace my lacks and goofs and imperfections. With my slurred s’s and my total lack of depth perception, I’ve never had a chance to present myself to the world as perfect. I’m too busy walking into doors and people and walls. 

I know! This is not a culture that likes imperfections. We bully people for their difference. We call them names on social media and in real life. We all present the nicest, most filtered photos of ourselves doing the nicest, most acceptable things. 

Embracing your failures and your lacks can seem like a fool’s journey, but here’s the thing: the fools have the most fun. I hope you’ll be a fool with me. 

People Pretend

People pretend. A lot of us pretend we’re secure. And usually it’s the loudest, most seemingly confident people who are the least secure. 

They boast. They tend to guffaw. They have loud voices. They hide themselves behind fancy toys and clothes and cars. It’s their costumes to get through life. And that’s so sad because I don’t want anyone to have a costume. The fool’s journey, my journey, is so much more fun. Laughing at your mistakes is a lot happier than dealing with the constant pressure to be perfect, to be constantly awesome. 

Truly confident people? They don’t need the costumes and the accessories. They can have them of course, but they don’t need them and that’s a big difference. They embrace their fool. They fangirl and fanboy over all sorts of random things. They collect toenail clippers or memes about dolphins or whatever. They allow their feelings to be real and their dreams to be known. They wear whatever they want to wear – what feels like them.

Clothes Don’t Make the Person

All my life, I’ve been teased for my clothes and I don’t care, but I use those moments to understand other people and their insecurities. 

I went on a date with a man once. I thought we were just having lunch. I didn’t realize that we were on an actual date date because I am clueless about things like that. It was way below freezing. I had to walk to get to the restaurant. Imagine walking in 18-degree weather and there is a sea wind gusting down an almost abandoned street. Even the clams were hiding. I was layered. So layered. 

I got there and the man, a banker, looked at me and said, “You look homeless.” 

Nice way to create a hierarchy of worth, right? But he didn’t care that I looked a bit over-layered. He still liked me. What he cared about that he was with someone who wasn’t looking snazzy. I was insulted. I felt badly for him because that’s a whole lot of insecure. 

Let’s just say that we were not meant to be. 

Clothes Don’t Make a Person

Once when I was a first-year college student I visited my boyfriend’s family in Manhatten for New Year’s. His mom immediately tried to buy me new clothes. She was terrified that I wouldn’t fit in. I didn’t. I was an absolute bumpkin from New Hampshire who wore pastels from K-Mart in a world of black designer clothes. We went to one of my boyfriend’s fancy friend’s house for a New Year’s Eve party and her dad, a famous food critic and writer, looked at me in my pink cashmere sweater and said, “Oh, honey. Where are you even from?” 

I stared into the sea of black cocktail dresses and sports jackets and said, “New Hampshire?”

He nodded. “Makes sense.” 

I went in there, everyone gawped at me. I smiled and eventually everyone was too drunk to notice that I was pastel in a sea of mourning. It was a good time.

Random Movie Quote

In the movie American Gangster  Denzel Washington’s character says to his really well-dressed kid brother, 

“That. What you got on. That’s a very, very, very nice suit? That’s a clown suit. That’s a costume. With a big sign on it that says, ‘Arrest Me.’ You understand? You’re too loud. You’re making too much noise. Look at me: The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.”

American Gangster

That’s true about standing out to cops, but it’s also true about confidence.

Anecdote About My Hobbit Dad

My sweet little hobbit dad was a truck driver and spent his whole life thinking he was dumb because he didn’t get past second grade. Dyslexic, he was the smartest man I knew. With his pants falling off his bum, and his low-key attitude, would talk to presidential nominees, poets, scientists, servers, cabbies, the greeter at Wal-Mart. He talked to everyone and anyone, asking them insightful, poignant questions that went right to the heart of who they were. 

Despite his insecurities, he was confident in who he was – that essential part of his nature and soul – and he gave off the vibe of being authentic and real and confident because he didn’t know how to be anything else. He approached everyone as if they were a potential friend, but more than that . . . he approached everyone like they were a quality human being. 

To be confident you have to do a few things and practice doing them: 

  1. Embrace your anxieties, your perceived flaws. Know that everyone else you see has them too. 
  2. Practice being confident. How do you do that? Practice being okay with who you are. 
  3. Embrace the fool in you and abolish the perfectionist. Practice this, too. Do things that you’re afraid to do. 
  4. Approach the world with an outlook of potential instead of paranoia. 

All of that boils down to one tip:

Be real. Be who you really are.

I hope you’ll go on this fool’s journey with me, being more fully okay with who you are, showing the world your spirit and personality, perceived flaws and all. 

I just released a book on Amazon and it’s an adult mystery and I’m in love with it. You should read it. It’s an adventure. 


Gabby The Dog, Wisdom for Monday

Hundreds of beings can smell one rose bush.

The roses keep on creating scent. Love is like that. So is contentment.

Sharing your joy & kindness never lessens it. And you deserve to share in its smells. Smells are good. Dogs know.

Gabby the Dog

Random Dog Thoughts are posted every weekday over on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.


NEWS

Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow!

This week’s episode’s link.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE PODCAST” then like and subscribe.

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can order it here. 


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead

It all began with my mom freaking out about a feather.

My mom has always been afraid of birds. That fear started long before I existed and was made worse by a visit to a science museum in Boston where an owl swooped near her head and glared at her. Apparently, that powerful owl glare was enough to push her over the edge.

I wasn’t allowed to have bird feeders or stuffed animal birds. If there were robins outside on our lawn, Mom would avert her eyes and draw the shades in the windows.

My mother’s fear of birds grew so big that she screeched when I was four years old and proudly brought a peacock feather home from a nursery school field trip to a wild animal farm. I was so psyched about this feather, which I won by answering a bunch of animal questions correctly.

The feather made me feel super smart for the first time in my little life. It was my prize and my reward and I was the only one in the whole nursery school who received one. It was like a Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer in my four-year-old head. It was such a super big deal and I knew — I just was absolutely positive — that my mom would be psyched and put it on the wall and maybe frame it or something while she announced to all her friends, “My youngest daughter, Carrie? She is so smart. So smart, I tell you! See this feather? It proves it.”

When I presented the coveted prize to my mom, she screamed and made me throw the feather outside.

“Get it out! Get that dirty thing out of our house!” she yelled. Actually, she screeched.

I remember pivoting in our heavily wooded, dark kitchen, running out to the screened-in porch, and into our yard. I took the peacock feather to a giant boulder where I played deserted island and Wizard of Oz and all my lonely made-up games, and I climbed up to the top of the rock.

Once there, I kissed the feather, the dirty thing, goodbye. I cried because it was so beautiful and I won it and then I had to let it go.

I let that beautiful feather go. I didn’t hold onto it the way we tend to hold onto our fears. It is just so hard to let go of our fears. That’s especially true for my poor mom who wouldn’t go to friends’ houses if they had birds in cages. She hated the beach because birds were at the beach. Every year black birds would hang out on our front lawn during their migration. There would be hundreds of them. She’d call in sick to work. Her fear held her back over and over again.

Years after the peacock incident, my mom ran screaming from a park where we were having a picnic with my daughter who was then two. A seagull had come too close. Too close was about a football field away.

When I caught up with my mom, she was standing in the doorway of a local restaurant, shaking.

“Don’t judge me!” she said. She was reapplying her lipstick with a shaking hand.

I grabbed her hand in mine because the lipstick application was not going well.

“I’m not judging you,” I told her, “but I don’t want Em to grow up afraid.”

That’s when I realized that my mom missed out on so much of life even though she was the liveliest, absolutely most alive person I knew. She missed out because she listened to her fear.

My daughter grew up to study Krav Maga in Israel, to apply and get in to Harvard, to become a field artillery officer in the Army. She’s jumped off roofs at stunt camp, log rolled, rock climbed, was the flyer of her cheerleading squad. She is known for picking up birds that she finds in parking lots, shopping centers, and bringing them to safety.

She is bold and unafraid most of the times. She’s not a fan of spiders, but she deals with them. Even when she is afraid, she faces her fears, snarls at them, and tells them to stand down.

She made my poor mom’s heart race and palpitate more than once.

Even for those of us who don’t have phobias like my Mom, the biggest fears that we have are often the ones about not being enough, not smart enough, not loved enough, just not enough. Of failure. Of being imperfect. Of being alone. There are so many fears we punish ourselves with. But we don’t have to listen to those fears. We can face the fears, see them for what they are and ignore the fears’ advice to cower, to yell, to blame, to run away.

My mother was afraid of a feather.

A feather.

And our fears? The ones we hold inside of us? The ‘not good enough’ moments that feel so dam real? They are even less substantial than that feather.

That’s right. Those fears are not even as heavy as a feather, nowhere near as substantial. Still, we let them hurt us and hold us back.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to let them hold you back.

Here’s the other thing: You can’t ignore your fear and you can’t give in to it. You have to jump headlong into the scariness and embrace the fear and snarl at it and know what it is. What is it? Fear is that voice that rings so loudly in your brain telling you what to do or what not to do. When you refuse to listen to it? That’s when you win.

You can beat your fears.

What are you afraid of? What makes you shake and cower? Not your phobias. But your fears. Are you afraid of failing so much that you don’t try to succeed? Bankruptcy? Not being loved? Commitment? Being evil? Being good? Being taken advantage of? Taking advantage of others? Face them head on because those fears are keeping you from being your best self.

I’m trying to be my best self. I fail a lot! So much! But I hope you’ll grab my hand even when it’s shaking and try with me. I think we can do this. Together.

Email or comment if you want to say hi and talk about it, okay?

Latest podcast is here!


Continue reading “Don’t Be Like My Mom. You Can’t Run From Fear; You’ve Got to Snarl at It Instead”

Don’t Vomit in the Taxi and How to Tell a Good Story in Three Quick Steps

Don’t Vomit in the Taxi and How to Tell a Good Story in Three Quick Steps

 
 
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This week Carrie was in Georgia hanging out with her daughter who had just had an operation. Her daughter is fine! Anyways, on the way to the airport at 4 a.m., the taxi driver told her story after story, mostly about the drunk people from Fort Benning who had ridden in his cab. 

He was an amazing story teller and I realized that sometimes writing is just like telling a big anecdote. And you don’t want to be boring. We all know the people who have super boring anecdotes that just go on and on, right? You don’t want to be that person! 

The Three Quick and Simple Steps For Telling a Good Anecdote or writing a Good Story

Hook them in

This is the attention grabber. 

Tell an actual story

Tell a real story, not just a bunch of random details. Let it have a beginning, a middle and an end. 

Give a Moment to Let the Message Sink In

Your story has a point, right? Let us understand what that point is. Don’t rush the ending. Show how your anecdote or your novel or your story reflects a bigger piece of life. Let it resonate. 


Writing Tip of the Pod

Give your story a point. 

Dog Tip for Life

Do whatever you can to get their attention. Hook them in. 

SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


WHERE TO FIND US

The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.


Big News!

I’m about to publish a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?

Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.

But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor. 

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.

You can preorder it here. Please, please, preorder it. 

So, um, please go buy it. I am being brave, but that means that despite all my reasons for doing this, I’m still terrified that nobody will buy it and I really, really love this book. A lot.


LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”


IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods

ART NEWS

Becoming

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

New Year’s Gifts and Open Hearts

Open Hearts at Grocery Store

Two years ago, on the last day of 2017 (the no-good, terrible year), I was in the grocery store line and the cashier said something nice about me making a good meal for my man and how cute we are together and then she said, “You’re best buddies. Best buddies forever. Me and my — ” Her voice caught on grief. “We were like that.”

And my heart broke right there.

And I said, “C–, you’re breaking my heart and you’re working and I can’t get over there on the other side of the grocery belt thingy and hug you because you’re working.”

The bagger girl at the end of the lane looked away. I don’t think she’s good with emotion.

But C– just smiled at me and said, “It’s okay. It’s okay. I have a new man in my life and he’s so sweet to me and he showed up just when I needed him and my J–, I think he sent him to me.”

Her J — is her long-time, forever buddy, her husband who died.

So, I basically emoted all over the place while she rung up my crackers and I was like, “C–! You are killing me. I’m crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m happy for you. I’m crying because you’re so beautiful. And this is all… it’s all so… It’s poignant.”

She laughed.

The bagger kept looking away.

And when I walked out of the grocery store, this person I don’t know, he touched my elbow to make me stop my mad-fast hustle to the car. It was -2 out. It was cold.

The guy who was all bundled up and wearing some Carhartt’s said, “You know. When you have a heart as open as yours, it’s going to hurt sometimes.”

And I said, brilliantly, “Oh.”

“It’s worth it,” he said. “Do good out there, Carrie. Do good.”

I was a little freaked out, but I thanked him, got to my car and sat there, and I just stared at this cold, Maine, parking lot and the people rushing through the grayness that seems to sometimes overwhelm everything during winter and my heart got so full that I started emoting everywhere again because that random Carhartt-wearing man took time out of his day to talk to me. He stopped in the cold to talk to me.

This guy knew my name somehow, but bigger than that? This guy knows about hearts.


Gifts Out There

So, here’s the thing – there are gifts out there (big gifts and little ones) and they can come from the weirdest places. They’re connections. They’re motivations. They are these tiny times where you get to see inside other people’s minds and hearts.

Savor them this year. Try to dwell on those good things as much as we all dwell on the bad.

And let both the good and the bad inspire you to make a difference in your own life and maybe even other people’s lives (big ways and little ways).

cat, cat wisdom, catandkitten, kitten, Maine cat, maine
cat, cat wisdom, catandkitten, kitten, Maine cat, maine

Thank You

Thank you all for everything you’ve done for me this year. You’ve listened to me worry about things like suddenly being a full-time mom again.  You’ve celebrated with me about book stuff and podcast stuff. You’ve mourned with me when Charlene died.

You haven’t mocked me too hard because Grover (the muppet) is my internal cheerleader and John Wayne (dead cowboy movie star) is my internal editor. You’ve been brave with me on Be Brave Fridays when I shared my art, which is still scary by the way.

Some of you have bought my books and become my patrons. On social media, so many of you have been so kind over and over. And you haven’t unsubscribed to my newsletter. That’s such a big deal to me.

Thank you.

I really appreciate how kind and giving you’ve all been and if I write any more I’ll start crying. And there’s no random stranger guy here to make me feel better.


But there is Gabby….

Gabby’s New Year Wisdom

Love is being right in the moment. It’s about enjoying everything around you. And really feeling it, being open to it.


This includes the couch.

It even includes squirrels.


It’s not giving or taking, but who you are in relationship to all else (especially the couch) at that moment.


Love.

Gabby Dog


Last week’s podcast

This week’s podcast link.

Continue reading “New Year’s Gifts and Open Hearts”

Writing Without Labels

I was just doing a visiting residency at a great school in Vermont and a seventh grader said to his teacher, “Okay, Boomer.”

Full disclosure: The teacher was thirty-six years old.

Second important detail: The teacher gasped and said, “How old do you think I am?”

The teacher gave me panicked eyes.

The next day the teacher told me that the principal had decided that “Okay, Boomer” was hate speech and that it would be treated as such with swift and severe penalties.

I’m not going to talk about that because it’s Monday morning and I have not woken up yet because … Thanksgiving.

But when I asked that kid later why he called his teacher a Boomer, he said, “He’s just all about his way. He’s old. He thinks he knows who we are.”

We all think we know who each other is. We don’t.

What is a Boomer?

Boomers is a broad category that focuses on one demographic, which is the date you were born. Boomers are part of the generation of births between 1946 to 1964.

I am not a Boomer.

When I visit schools (They ask me. I come. I don’t recruit these visits. Silly people.), I tend to tell kids that your demographics (age, poverty level, religion, gender, sex, race, religion) aren’t what defines you any more than it defines your characters in your stories.

You are who you are because of the things you say, your reactions, your actions, what you do. This is just like the characters in your stories.

Actions Define Us

If you say, “She’s a white woman in her 30s.” You might think of a white woman named Karen who loves Starbucks and Taylor Swift and tends to ask for the manager over the slightest perceived injustice (to her).

But that white woman in her 30s might actually be named Wren and coffee gives her seizures and she is more of a Ani DiFranco fan that a T-Swift person and she would never ask for the manager because she’s got complex social anxiety and conflict aversion.

It’s our actions that define who we are more than our labels. Other people use labels to define who we are. Those other people don’t get to define us. We define us.

Define yourself as someone amazing. You deserve it.

WRITING NEWS

LEARN WITH ME AT THE WRITING BARN!

The Write. Submit. Support. format is designed to embrace all aspects of the literary life. This six-month course will offer structure and support not only to our writing lives but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors. We will discuss passes that come in, submissions requests, feedback we aren’t sure about, where we are feeling directed to go in our writing lives, and more. Learn more here! 

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!

My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!

Gasp!

It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

In the Woods
In the Woods


ART NEWS

Bar harbor arts
Carrie Jones Art

Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site. 

PATREON OF AWESOME

Get exclusive content, early podcasts, videos, art and listen (or read) never-to-be-officially published writings of Carrie on her Patreon. Levels go from $1 to $100 (That one includes writing coaching and editing for you wealthy peeps). 

Check it out here. 

WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

Last week’s podcast.